Published in The West Australian’s New Homes magazine, June 27, 2015
If you are in the market for a new home, it may be useful to understand a little more about the building code and why it is important.
What is the national building code?
The Building Code of Australia (BCA) sets out requirements to ensure a house is built to be structurally sound, will not allow the ingress of water or moisture, will be protected from the spread of fire, provides for the health and amenity of the residents, safe access to and within the home, and energy and water efficient.
The BCA is adopted by every State and Territory through their local building legislation, although some have their own regional variations to allow for differences in the building environment and preferred building methods.
The BCA is referred to as a “performance-based code” because it provides two options to show compliance. You can use the standards contained in the code that are deemed to meet the performance requirement, or you can use an “alternative solution” that will satisfy the performance requirements stated in the code using a different construction method or material.
What is the relationship between the BCA and how builders actually build?
The BCA sets a benchmark by outlining acceptable minimum design and construction requirements for new homes based on current approved technology and practices.
By itself, the BCA cannot guarantee that a house will be well built but, when combined with skilled tradespeople and good design, the BCA has helped to make Australian homes among the best in the world.
Does the building industry support the BCA?
The HIA is a strong advocate of a uniform national building code. Uniform codes ensure that builders and homeowners benefit from new and improved building technologies.
By creating a common, viable market for new products, they encourage research and development by building material manufacturers and also promote increased labour mobility between States and Territories.
How are codes enforced?
WA adopts the BCA through the Building Act. This means the BCA is checked by the person issuing the building permit which will be either a local council or a private building certifier.
Before work starting, a builder’s plans must be approved with a building permit. At the end of the work, the council will check the building and issue a final sign-off that will include checking against the BCA.
How is the code updated?
The BCA is a “living document” that has been updated annually for the past 20 years but will be updated every three years from next year. This is a reflection of the fact that the BCA sets a high standard for building work and the rules do not need to change every year. The code is now freely available online at abcb.gov.au.
John Gelavis is the executive director of the WA Housing Industry Association. Follow him on Twitter at @HIA_WA
Picture: JPM Building & Design